The initiative is a part of a broader strategy to combat the city’s growing crime problem.
During a public safety committee meeting Tuesday, Sept. 27, council members passed a resolution that, if approved by the full council, would call on the Memphis Police Department to enforce more strongly curfews set by the Child Curfew Act of 1995.
“Having a place to take youth that are out past curfew, which is a violation of a current ordnance, that has been the issue; They didn’t have a place to take them," councilwoman Rhonda Logan said.
The resolution also calls for Memphis police to work with city administration on a proposal to open “overnight curfew centers”. These centers will be where children will be held until they are picked up by a parent.
“This gives an opportunity, a safe haven, for the youth," Logan said. "Them [youth] not being on the street, being victimized. As well as not getting into delinquency or crime."
Most major cities like Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles have some kind of “youth curfew”. Officials here in Memphis hope this action will lead to a decrease in crime carried out by juveniles.
Bennie Cobb, a former Shelby County Sheriff captain, believes any enforcement of this curfew law should involve civilians.
"There should be, in the holding center, hopefully, they would consider having a civilian, that’s trained," Cobb said. "Not only is there an arm of the law enforcement but maybe somebody that’s trained in psychological understanding, or somebody that’s a juvenile advocate that could be there to help monitor these young people until these young people until their parents came.”
Pastor and criminal justice activist Dr. Earle Fisher believes using police to enforce a curfew in this way will only contribute to over-policing and serves as a temporary fix to a greater problem.
“When you start talking about curfews in the blanket way you’re dealing with what ultimately will result in ‘stop and frisk’ tactics by law enforcement. Because you have to prejudice a stereotype of certain people based on how you think they look," Fisher said. "You’re giving them cart blanche to pull up on a kid and say, ‘how old are you' or pull up on a young adult who might be 21 or 24 who just looks 16, 17, or 18.”
Next month, the city council is expected to get a more detailed report on these proposed youth curfew centers. A resolution will be considered during the next full council meeting next month.